O'Death | 04.03 | Philadelphia

Words & Images by: Jake Krolick

O'Death :: 04.03.08 :: Johnny Brenda's :: Philadelphia, PA

O'Death :: 04.03 :: Philadelphia
Punk has always had a rebellious spirit. Over the past decade, its firm anti-establishment stance has carried punk's soul to a variety of music. When you think about bluegrass, Americana and punk the similarities start to fall into place. Without delving too deep, each style can encompass fast, energetic music, typically with short songs and stripped-down instrumentation. Granted, there is much more to these genres, but for every green Mohawk shaking in the pit there is a raucous backwoods foot stomp set off by a McCoury, Grisman or Rice that can match weight any day. In the same vein, punk's own inner feelings have been known to beautifully erupt in ballads from the Patti Smiths or Joe Strummers of the world. Enter O'Death, a group from New York City who has successfully safety pinned punk's zeitgeist to Americana and bluegrass.

This ragtag group slaughtered Philadelphia letting Sid Vicious' spirit thrash poetically out of their banjo picking, fiddle howls and shiver inducing vocals. This satisfying vision possessed the crowd in a way that would have amused hardened Ramones fans. Rewind to last week, if you needed an excuse to kick up your heels and shun death for another day then you worked your way down to Girard and Frankfort. There you found a hootenanny with Kiss Kiss, O'Death and Murder by Death. These three bands had just embarked on a multi-city tour that landed at Johnny Brenda's, a fine establishment in Fishtown known for celebrating punk's spirit in its many forms.

O'Death :: 04.03
Kiss Kiss proved to be a worthy experience. The charged combination of Rebecca Schlappich's sobbing violin, Josh Benash's gossamer vocals and Sam Oatts' vivacious bass spilled gypsy ditties across the floor. They're a kindred spirit to Beirut or Devotchka, but with a little less gypsy and little more Kooks. They toasted the room with their atonal indie sideshow as they traipsed through "Machines" in a fine showing of wolfish dissonance. "The Cats In Your House" painted a scene straight out of those old black and white Mickey Mouse cartoons. Schlappich's violin directed the band's movement just as an animated wind blows trees to the rhythm of the cartoon orchestra. The band swayed with each of her long passes of the bow with Benash's vocals creating a whining siren song backdrop.

O'Death's members had been out in the audience all evening, mingling with their family and friends. The band spit more energy just walking onto stage than a bull caged in at a rodeo. The crimson-headed Gabe Darling struck first blood as he plucked the familiar, slow-turned, jack-in-the-box style "Down To Rest" on the ukulele. The intro was snagged in midair by guitarist Greg Jamie, whose haunting vocals wrapped their icy fingers of woe around the melody's neck. A shirtless, wild-eyed Jesse Newman (bass) stomped in a count as David Rogers-Berry and Bob Pycior broke the formalities with a crash of drums and a rip of the fiddle. It didn't take folks long to realize that this was way more than just oddly arranged bluegrass. O'Death's twisted slant on Americana and bluegrass was siphoned through a cornucopia of musical influences.

At first take, O'Death is a foot-stomping, barnburner of a good time. Their show is a place where you can shed your shirt and shake your neighbor. When you pull your head from the moonshine long enough to listen, you'll hear a heck of a lot. Jamie's vocals are truly unique, perpetually shifting from a sorrowful, hauntingly nostalgic trill to a rapid farmer's hog calling sooie. His tone came across as deeply old and Appalachian - twang filled but not truly country. Pair that harmonious control with lunatic energy from Rogers-Berry, Pycior and Newman, who more resembled Glenn Danzig than Bill Monroe, and you get a feel for what this band can do. Their abilities produced dynamic, all-encompassing peaks and valleys that were gorgeously amplified by their pagan stage presence. O'Death's abrasive style teetered on the edge of calm as their take of The Pixies' "Nimrod's Son" hit us squarely in the gut. They followed with a poignant starting "Only Daughter" that disintegrated into aggressive banjo led havoc.

O'Death :: 04.03 :: Philadelphia
Our semi-circle around the foot of the stage was draped in disco ball shimmers. We were churned into a fiery mass by the romp stomping clap-a-long "On An Aching Sea." There was little left to the imagination as the fiddle player stripped out of his shirt. Pycior was shaggy haired, swayed by a mix of alcohol and intensity, not unlike his bothers on stage. His two-ton fiddle strokes best complemented the beat of the drum. This was no small feat as Berry's stick speed and powerful hits approached that of a nebular meltdown. Pycior's fiddle barked, piercing cries part Psycho soundtrack and part Jaws theme music, as he pulled the horse-haired bow across the strings. Torn wisps of horsehair dangled from the ends of the bow, reflecting the tattered remains of the songs before. The front edge of the stage displayed a nice offering of empty bottles as a testament to the crowds' parching boogie.

They continued to flick and fiddle with our music-affected membrane until we had washed our sins away twice over in sweat and blood. We were granted one breath during the entire hour-long performance, a less-than-gentle waltz that was really more of a gulp of air and not quite a full breath. The band stayed on stage with help from the audience's pleas, slaying the remnants of the house with an "Allie May Reynolds" encore. The full-tilt barnburner sent Darling and Berry skyward, flying from the tops of their seats in joy driven leaps. Our expanded congregation, grown with maiden fans since the set's beginning, now sung along with a devout vehemence. As Jamie's eyes spun one last time towards his brain, we were left with the notion that something devilishly divine had infatuated everyone in the venue.

Murder by Death would have faired better playing before O'Death. They actually gave a decent show with Sarah Balliet pulling some remarkable notes from her cello. With eight years and a new album under their belts, they rolled out of the gates at a trot compared to the throttling O'Death had just given us. Headliner or not, Murder by Death just felt out of position. No pun intended, but they were simply murdered by O'Death.

O'Death - 4/3/08 - Johnny Brenda's - Philadelphia

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[Published on: 4/14/08]

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Smittea Mon 4/14/2008 12:00PM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Hopefully when this band makes a little more money, that dude will buy a shirt.

psogator43 Mon 4/14/2008 02:29PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

^^ hahahaha...or stop drinking so much beer

moemoe6434 Mon 4/14/2008 03:36PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

O'Death is awesome... http://www.myspace.com/odeath

All Loving Liberal White Guy Mon 4/14/2008 09:12PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

All Loving Liberal White Guy

Shirts are so overrated. O'Death rules supreme! Probably one of the best live shows out there.

Jukebox Hero Mon 4/14/2008 11:56PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Jukebox Hero

O'Death rocks and this was a great review, right up until that last sentence. This is surely nitpicking, but why do people say "no pun intended" when they clearly mean to make a pun? It was a slightly witty comment. Go ahead. You can take credit for coming up with the pun. It was certainly intentional. I apologize, but this ranks right up there with people saying "literally" (i.e. "I literally puked when he said that") when they in no way mean literally. Just say "almost." Sorry for the little semantics bitch-session, but the English language is going down the tube (note: there may be no better place to witness the downward spiral than on this website's message boards) and I just felt I need to do my part. Otherwise a great review of a truly exiting band. No hard feelings Jambase.

Smittea Tue 4/15/2008 06:21AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


What about... "To be perfectly honest with you...." That is certainly one that chaps my hide. I would expect you to be nothing else.

All Loving Liberal White Guy Tue 4/15/2008 10:20AM
-1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

All Loving Liberal White Guy

Jack Straw are you an English teacher? We're not in class here. I know that when there is a time and place to speak proper but language is just, like, and anchor that holds us down, man. Havn't you ever heard of Babel?

Jukebox Hero Tue 4/15/2008 11:51AM
-1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Jukebox Hero

Language is not an anchor, but rather a set of wings that frees us to express ourselves clearly. It just bothers me when people say things that they do not mean. Think before you speak. It should be even easier in the case of writing and easier still in the case of published writing. I know we're not in class, but these are writers being published on a pretty major website, you know? I don't think it's too much to expect a little thought to be put into the writing.

Smittea Tue 4/15/2008 12:58PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


The other day I went to O'Death's website..... I ordered a couple of t-shirts. I sent them back to them thinking they'd need them more than me.

toestothenose Tue 4/15/2008 01:55PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Fellow music fans - Much thanks for the comments

JackStraw4 - No hard feelings taken on your first comment, you are quite right and deserve the acknowledgement. However, I think of your second comment as the Straw that broke the camels back - “Pun intended.”

Now, I … know … me …be… not… master… of… English… language,

but I do have a strong grasp of people and their abilities to overemphasize a needle in a haystack. Thought was placed into the article, enough that you understood exactly what I meant at the end. At the end of the day, if you were that offended by the statement it was not my goal. Please just enjoy O’Death and the music they make to its fullest.

DubSaw starstarstarstarstar Tue 4/15/2008 02:35PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


i saw these guys about 3 yrs ago at a cafe in my small town of WARWICK new york. they rocked.

Jukebox Hero Tue 4/15/2008 02:39PM
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Jukebox Hero

toestothenose- I apologize for sounding a little snarky in my second comment. Those comments were not so much aimed at you as they were directed at a lot of basic grammatical/proofreading errors I've noticed on this site.

You're article was great overall and I appreciate your coverage of this ass-kicking band. I hope to see more. Thanks.

toestothenose Tue 4/15/2008 03:14PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


JackStraw4 - I give you a virtual cheers! On my part- I’ll make a conscious effort over these summer months to improve my writing in regards to grammatical mistakes. Regardless - Your comments are constructive and valuable - Please continue to make them.